Discuss how Roland Barthes defines the role of the reader in constructing meaning of a literary text.

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Barthes also challenges us to consider reading as a creative act. The answer already given shows how Barthes considers that the author is a producer but also a product. In other words, the author is not some "Author-God" imbuing a single meaning via the literary work. Rather, the author relies...

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Barthes also challenges us to consider reading as a creative act. The answer already given shows how Barthes considers that the author is a producer but also a product. In other words, the author is not some "Author-God" imbuing a single meaning via the literary work. Rather, the author relies on tropes, metaphors, styles, cultural objects, and so on to make his/her text. The author writes but is written.

Thus, we shift to the reader and Barthes considers reading to be a creative act and given the variety of potential readers, the meaning of any text opens to new possibilities. If we limit a text's meaning to the supposed singular vision of its author, we limit that meaning. Some reader apprehending said text has no limits on their interpretations. Barthes also says that the text itself "resists such a reduction." ("From Work to Text")

In the same essay ("From Work to Text"), Barthes substitutes "text" for "work." Instead of looking at the "work" of art as an object/book, he says we should consider "text," as the reading process. Considering the textual process, Barthes means that reading is the realization of the text's multiple interpretations and pluralities. Traditional reading considers the work, the book itself, as the concrete object of study, the physical manifestation of the Author-God's intended meaning. Barthes's textual reading acknowledges the plurality of the text and the creative act of readers reading and bringing new interpretations and/or resurrecting what they are reading. It is a democratization of meaning in this sense: from the limitations of the Author-God to the plurality of readers reading. Therefore, Barthes argues that the reader is as much, or more, of a producer of meaning than the writer.

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In "Death of the Author," Barthes argues that literary critics have placed too much emphasis on the author in evaluating written texts. Barthes, always the provocateur, takes aim in the essay at the importance of the author. The author, Barthes argued, is not the sovereign source of the text he or she creates. The author is a historically and culturally created concept, and Barthes says that they do not create language, but the other way around. The author draws on language, tropes, and meanings already established in order to produce their text, and Barthes says critics must see the "necessity to substitute language itself for the for the person...supposed to be its owner." Because of this, the role of the reader is paramount, though it has been consistently (and, Barthes seems to think, a bit snobbishly) by critics. It is the reader that gives a text its meaning, not the author. A text, Barthes says, is made of "multiple writings," drawn from a number of different sources and sensible within a number of different traditions. It is within the reader that these meanings are put together into a unity:

The reader is the space on which all of the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text's unity lies not in its origin but in its destination.

The reader, then, is the center of the creative process of writing.

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